Regional School Unit 56 board director Don Whittemore of Carthage, far right, speaks during an RSU 56 board meeting at Dirigo High School in January. From left are board directors Joy Bradbury of Peru, Kathleen Szostek of Dixfield and Larry Whittington of Dixfield. Whittemore told the Rumford Falls Times on Tuesday that he objects to the district’s 2024-25 budget proposal due to high salary contract increases for administrators. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times file

DIXFIELD —  One Regional School Unit 56 board director has reached out to the local newspaper to express his objections to a school budget proposal that passed overwhelmingly during an April 23 meeting.

Don Whittemore of Carthage spoke to the Rumford Falls Times following Tuesday’s meeting at Dirigo High School to discuss the 2024-25 school budget proposal.

Whittemore was the only one of 10 board directors to vote against the $14.28 million budget proposal on April 23. The board has 12 directors representing Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

Voting in favor of the budget were Barbara Chow, Larry Whittington, Tim Kelly, Elizabeth Kelly and Kathleen Szostek, all of Dixfield; Canton board members Carl Lueders and Natalie Sneller; and Peru board members Joy Bradbury and Tina Courtway.

Board members Deanna Dolloff of Peru and Brad Dyer of Carthage were absent.

The spending plan is $718,776, or 5.3%, more than this year’s $13.56 million. It represents an average increase of 6.76% for those who pay property taxes in Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.


The district’s budget meeting and vote on the 2024-25 budget is set for May 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Dirigo High School. A budget validation referendum vote in each of the district’s towns is scheduled on June 11.

Whittemore gave the Rumford Falls Times a copy of seven administrators’ salaries and their contracted pay raises from this school year through the 2026-27 school year with his hand-written comments regarding their total increase amounts, noting the total increase amount for all seven administrators by the third year equals $158,439, according to his figures.

“I’m not saying people don’t deserve a pay raise,” he said, “but I don’t believe that we should have a budget at 5.3% (increase) when we’re giving out $20-odd-thousand dollar pay raises over a three-year period.

“I object very highly of it, and I wouldn’t sign the warrant (for the budget) tonight because I don’t believe in this budget,” Whittemore said.

On Wednesday, the RFT asked RSU 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen to respond to Whittemore’s comments.

“We do not have any employees getting ‘$20-odd-thousand dollar pay raises over a three-year period.’ The administrative salary scale that was provided to you (by Don Whittemore) is accurate,” Doyen responded by email. “You can calculate any of the increases by subtracting the ‘23-’24 salary from the ‘26-’27 salary. You can easily verify that none of those increases are “$20-odd-thousand dollar pay raises over a three-year period.”


She also wrote, “Don (Whittemore) provided you with the correct salary scale for the new Administrator(s’) Contracts for 2024-27. However, as you can see on his sheet, he has “compounded” the increases.

“For example, the technology director will go from $79,606.12 in the current school year to $89,537.79 in the 2026-27 school year with an increase of 5% in 2024-25, 4% in 2025-26 and 3% in 2026-27. Don (Whittemore) has that listed as an increase of $21,235.75 over the three years when in fact the technology directors’ salary will increase over three years by $9,931.67,” Doyen said.

Regarding the district’s salary pay rates compared to other nearby districts, Doyen wrote: “During negotiations, the RSU 56 Board Negotiations Committee compared RSU 56 salaries to area salaries. It was determined that increases were needed to remain competitive. In negotiations, it was agreed upon to the (previously provided) increases. The full board (of directors) then voted to approve the negotiated contracts.”

Doyen also provided other information about the 2024-25 budget proposal which shows that the district’s payroll and benefits are up by $675,636 (a 5% increase) which includes the additional cost of staff health insurance at an 11.42% increase.

All other areas of the budget including electricity, technology and the Jobs for Maine Graduates program at the school are up $66,604, accounting for a 0.5% increase from this year’s budget. Those percentage increases added together are a 5.5% budget-to-budget increase, according to information provided by Doyen.

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